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Apple adds Bluetooth 4.0 support to new MacBook Air, Mac mini

Apple's latest MacBook Air and Mac mini models released on Wednesday are the first hardware from the company to support the Bluetooth 4.0 wireless standard for improved power consumption.

The Bluetooth 4.0 specification was officially adopted last June, but Apple's previous Mac products, including the new iMacs and MacBook Pros, only supported Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate). Wednesday's update means the new MacBook Airs and Mac minis completely skipped the Bluetooth 3.0 specification as Apple opted for the latest standard.

Bluetooth 4.0 includes "Classic Bluetooth," "Bluetooth High Speed," and "Bluetooth Low Energy" protocols. The high-speed mode is based on Wi-Fi, while the classic mode supports legacy protocols.

The Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) mode is aimed at low-power and low-latency applications. It carries a short range of up to 160 feet, but it still reaches farther than the competing radio frequency identification (RFID) wireless standard.

The additions come just a month after Apple officially joined the Bluetooth Special Interest Group board of directors. At the time it was revealed that the company would aid in developing the low-power 4.0 specification.

The Bluetooth SIG said that Apple will offer the group insight on platform development, as the Cupertino, Calif., company understands that technology is now driven by "hub devices" that capture data, utilize that data at the application layer, and perhaps even upload it to the cloud. The group said in a press release that the addition of Apple "will ensure a smooth growth trajectory of Bluetooth v4.0."